Tammy Wynette - Biography

Tammy once said: "I spent 15 minutes writing ["Stand by Your Man"], and a lifetime defending it". She was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on May 5, 1942, on her grandfather's cotton farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi. Tammy picked cotton as a child, and as a young woman worked as a waitress, a doctor's receptionist, a barmaid and a shoe factory worker. Shortly before graduating high school, Tammy married high school sweetheart Euple Byrd, an itinerant construction worker who was unemployed more often than not. They were finally forced to live in an abandoned, 60-year-old, 3-room log cabin on a Mississippi farm with no indoor plumbing, no stove and only a wood-burning fireplace for cooking and heat. "Not even the poorest sharecropper would have paid to live there," Tammy noted, but it was rent-free. They had 3 daughters, Gwendolyn ("Gwen"), Jacquelyn ("Jackie"), and Tina. The marriage ended in divorce. Tammy still dreamed of becoming a singer. Then, after a short marriage to singer Don Chapel which ended in annulment, Tammy headed to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer in earnest. As a teenager, her fantasy had been to appear on stage with her singing idol, George Jones. In 1968, she married George Jones, creating a union that captured the imaginations of country music fans everywhere. For the next 7 years they lived, sang, wrote, recorded and performed in a romantic, stormy, much-publicized relationship. They had one daughter, Tamala Georgette, born in 1970. Many of Tammy's hits dealt with classic themes of loneliness, divorce and the difficulties of relationships, especially her signature song "Stand by Your Man," which she co-wrote with her producer Billy Sherrill. The beautiful, deeply-moving lyrics of the song go: "Stand by your man / And show the world you love him / Keep giving' all the love you can / Stand by your man". This song has sometimes been misinterpreted, by misinformed people, as meaning a woman should tolerate anything, even abuse, from her man. What it really is, is an affirmation of the vows to love and honor a spouse. Tammy defended the song, in her own words, as "an expression of triumph over adversity". Her recording of "Stand by Your Man" was the biggest selling single in the history of country music. Tammy's releases have made the #1 position in the charts 35 times. Tammy received awards far too numerous to list here, some highlights were being named Country Music Association "Female Vocalist of the Year" for 3 years straight, 1968-1970; (she would be inducted into CMA Hall of Fame in 1998). After her divorce in 1975, Tammy was briefly married to Nashville real estate executive Michael Tomlin. Finally, with singer-songwriter George Richey, she achieved a long-lasting marriage; they were married for 20 years, from 1978 until her death in 1998. "I've had a wonderful life", she said in a 1991 Associated Press interview. "I absolutely feel I've been blessed tremendously. I can't complain at all". In all, she had 5 daughters and one son. Tammy passed away in her sleep on Monday, April 6, 1998, in her beloved Nashville; she was 55. Tammy will be missed greatly by her fans all around the world.